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Discrimination, Segregation and Learning from Our Past

Wednesday, February 26, 2014



Today I'm angry. Really angry. I don't ever blog about politics or religion but sometimes you have to break your own rules so here we go.

Over the years I've heard a lot of silly statements from vintage lovers.

"I was born in the wrong era"
"Thing were so much better in the 1950s"
"That was such an innocent time".

 Behind the image of Coca Cola picnics and gingham sun dresses were terrible moments in human history. Segregation, discrimination, internment camps and genocide. As we all learned from our history books, the eras that we love for fashion were certainly not some wonderful jive and wail soda fountain fest.



I write about this today and share these images because we share a common interest. We listen to old music, watch old movies and wear old clothes but by "living in the past" we must also look to our future. This week, politicians in Arizona and my home state, Missouri have filed legislation that would allow business owners to refuse service to patrons based on religious beliefs. They're calling it "the anti-gay bill" but its so much more than that.



Our grandparent's generation decided that it was okay to separate white facilities from other races. They signed laws to allow the round-up of Japanese American men, women and children into internment camps. A hard working black man could be refused a job because of his skin color.



If a gay couple goes to lunch, will they be refused service? What if I go to lunch with my sister and am seen giving her a hug and smiling, could we be refused service because someone thinks we're a couple? Will my Wiccan mother not be allowed to go grocery shopping if the store owner notices her? Will we allow our government to round up families that don't conform to their religious ideas and force them to live in muddy villages under armed security? Regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation or religion, these decisions impact all of us.

Love the past but live for the future and never let history repeat itself.

Read more on the proposed Missouri bill .  The Arizona Bill has been vetoed and you can read more about that here. While it's a victory for civil rights, it also took a lot of money and power to make it happen, which is sad. I hope that we all keep a very close eye on these kind of events and that by writing letters, signing petitions and speaking out for what you hold dear, everyone does their own part to make history.







46 Responses to “Discrimination, Segregation and Learning from Our Past”

  1. I notice that too all the time that people who are into vintage make those comments. Forgive them. They are only looking at what was pretty just like they tend to do with things of today. I don't think people handle the ugly well these days-maybe too spoiled? maybe its just easier? No excuses for ignorance though, not in this country where you can go to the library and read and educate yourself for free, But I think people would rather ignore the ugly than deal with it. Not everyone of course but I see it everywhere...sadly. I didn't know about this bill, thank you for informing me. I believe that people no matter who they are should be treated with respect and give respect in return. Its a shame this is happening. But like we had slavery in this country once there is slavery still happening all over the world-sex slavery. We had a holocaust during WWII and we had one recently in Rwanda. People just don't learn. Tragic. But I think being educated on what is happening, being vocal against it, and teaching our children about the sanctity of humanity will make a difference. xox D

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  2. Thank you for breaking your own rule of not discussing politics, religion and the like on your blog (it's a rule I typically abide by on my own as well) to voice your stance on this utterly insane, backwards, crushingly sad legislation. When I first heard about it, I almost thought it was a story from The Onion. How on earth, in the 21st century, can it still possible matter what a person does in the bedroom. Seriously, society, grow up, get over your antiquated, pointless fear based judgement and learn to accept others based on things infinitely more important than where they fall on the sexual orientation spectrum.

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* All Arizonians are cordially welcome here in Canada, where gay marriage is totally legal and there is a healthy lack of medieval era worthy legislation pertaining to homosexuality.

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    1. Umm....I'm just going to say I **love** the skirt with the red belt in the "ice milk sold here" pic. Fabulous. I'd wear that, just the way she does with a petticoat underneath.

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    2. The only issue in Canada is the new legislation in the province of Quebec which would ban the wear of any religous symbols for people working in the public sector. Which means a lot of new immigrants who have a hard time integrating are going to have even fewer options, this actually affects a lot of my freinds who wear headscarves and work as nurses.

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  3. Yay! Well spoken. As a professional historian ( I got my PhD in 2006, and wrote about the Middle Ages) I am stunned when peopel say things like this - even abotu preferrign to live in the Middle Ages. I have arthirtis and in November I nearly died from a hol ein my duodenum and stomach and I would so not want to live in the Middle Ages. And even if things are bad in some corners of the world now it was much worse in the '40s and '50s, both in regards to human rights, poverty and illness.

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  4. This is a great post and so timely, too. While I love the fashions of the 1930's and 1950's I have huge issues with the social climate of those times.

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  5. HELL YEAH! SING IT SISTER! SING IT LOUD! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! As a Wiccan who also loves vintage and all sorts of stuff from the past, THANK YOU. And let's not forget about feminism and how much the fight for women's rights -- the right to vote, the right to study the same things in school, the right to go to college, the right to choose, the right to be a homemaker and mom OR a career woman OR both -- changed our status as citizens within the time periods that we love. All of this craziness -- anti-gay bills, the war on women, a mistrust of immigrants, a resurgence of political prejudice -- makes me wonder if we really came as far as we thought we have. Do we have a larger fight ahead of us? And how can we make sure history doesn't repeat itself?

    Saying that the 40s or 50s was much better than today is completely missing the whole picture. Like my fellow professional historian, Eva (hi fellow PhD in all things old), said, it makes me CRAZY when people say stuff like that. They only see what they want to see through a selective and privileged lens. As women we would be confined to only a small selection of jobs and courses of study, and we would have to live under the great strain of social rules that would prevent many things we enjoy today.

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  6. Thank you for this article and hinting the negative features of past decades. I too sometimes think that my place is in ages past, like 18th and 19th cent., and then I realize there was no proper medicine, the women´s place in the society was grievous, etc etc, you get the point ;). I think it is very important to be aware of all the circumstances of living in the past eras.

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  7. Thank you for breaking your rules today and speaking out on a subject that we all need to be reminded of when we dream of the fashion from that past and wish everyone would go around dressed that way. I live in Seattle, Washington and it is hard to believe that people are so backwards and close minded to allow this sort of thing to even be suggested. Thanks you again for the reminder.

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  8. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. Thank you. The past was not idyllic--more stylish sure, but by no means better. So few people don't get that. I've been lurking and reading your blog for years, and I didn't think I could like you more than I already do. But man...I was wrong. Thank you.

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  9. What?! Thank you for breaking your rule as I had no idea such a thing had happened in your State...because I'm in a little village in the UK! This makes my heart break. It's based soley on fear and ignorance and is horrific. Times certainly are better for us all now but amongst our leaders lurk those who should know better. Shocking and sad.

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  10. good job girl.. Don't even get me started on that 'i was born in the wrong era" crap. And for some strange reason, some folks think that since i wear old dresses, and a fun apron when i cook i'm some aspiring "suzie homemaker". Which i don't think is bad, but come on, i'm 17, marraige and a family isn't the first thing on my list of things to do and i don't wear old dresses because i'm trying to recreate the past, but because i like them. When i get asked about where i'd like to go if i could time travel, i honestly don't know and would rather stay here. Things were scary back then just like they are today. It would be so, so terrifing to live in WWII. Nobody knew when it would end, and everyone knew someone that was killed. Same with the 50s or any other era in time. The cold war was scary, there were constant drills and it was believed that man would soon blow himself and the entire world up with just the push of a button... and i want to go back because the dresses were cute and the hairstyles were gorgeous? Please.
    I do see what you're saying withthe MO and AZ bill, but may i say that its not so much an attack on others as it is protection of business owners? personally, i think that if a buisness owner pays his taxes and all that, in the end its his buisness and i'm wary of the government dictating that. (think 'no shirt, no shoes, no service') And i'm not saying this lightly. This could mean he refuses services to me because I pray before a meal, or any other number of reasons, but i still think that, end the end, it's his buisness. Thanks for hearing me out :)

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    1. and I think thats what people on the other side of the spectrum are saying and that's okay- all businesses reserve the right to refuse service but you cannot refuse service based on discrimination! If someone refused you service at a restaurant for praying before your meal, that's against the civil rights act (which in my state explicitly states that you cant discriminate because of someone's religion). If business owners can refuse service by discriminating, that means that a business owner can point to a black person, a woman, a jew, etc and say "they're gay, kick him out". That's not just small business owners either. That includes your local post office, community centers, library, schools, movie theaters. There's no proof weather or not I'm gay or you're gay so they can say what they want just because they feel like it. Think about how ugly that could get.

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    2. That is very true. Thanks for replying, it gives me some more to think about.
      Isn't it sad that the world has to be so gray? Who's 'right' and who's 'wrong' in the world is such a fine, gray line and eternally confusing.

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    3. I'd add, as a gay person, *my* taxes go to support the sewage system, roads, tax breaks, everything from which said business owner benefits. They don't then have the right to refuse to provide their services to me. Their religious beliefs aren't being infringed upon by my existence, or anything else I do, unless I am actively preventing them from *practicing* their religion. This isn't really a gray issue.

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    4. Oh yes! Well, said! And true, there's nothing gray about it at all. Singling someone out based on their heritage, gender or lifestyle choices is absolutely unconstitutional. Nothing to be confused about, it's all there in the documents that our founding fathers wrote when they created this amazing country!

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  11. O, this is horrific. I'm so proud of our little country (New Zealand) making gay marriage legal.
    It's such a shame, America is so progressive at times, and yet this is sooo backwards. Gut wrenching.

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  12. One of my biggest pet peeves are the quotes you mentioned in the beginning of you post. People really do look at the past with rose colored glasses; failing to see the struggles that people had whether it be sexism or racism. I doubt these people would feel like time traveling if they were the subject of discrimination of any kind.

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  13. Amen sister, love the fashion but would never want to live back in time! Not after everything we have fought and worked so hard for across the board- I just saw this on the Mid-day news here in New Zealand and the first thought that came to mind was past segregation and discrimination atrocity's. . Thank you for posting.

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  14. Thank you for breaking your own rules! I also cannot handle people who say such things about being born in the wrong era. Someone said that to me recently, since I was wearing some vintage clothes; I forgot my Midwestern manners and snapped back that, as a woman, I really enjoy having personhood, so no, I would NOT like to go back to the "good old days," but I will happily take their clothes. =) My home state had introduced a very similar bill a few days ago, but after the bill received some publicity, its sponsors quickly pulled it, claiming that the bill had been "misunderstood," despite it's near-identicalness to the horrid AZ legislation. Like you, I'm angry; I'm sad; I'm dumbfounded. But fortunately there are enough people like you out there that these bills are being shut down. Thanks for speaking out!

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  15. Thank you for sharing this information and your thoughts. I agree that it was worth breaking your own rules to discuss, and I'm glad you did. I suppose some people try not to think about the horrible aspects of the past, and similarly prefer not to think about how horrible some of us still are to other human beings. It's important, but saddening, to be reminded.

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  16. Brittany, if you were here right now, I would hug you. Thank you for breaking your rule today. I hate when folks make statements about the so called "golden age" like it was this amazing time. It was a time of fabuylous clothing, music, décor, but that's about it. My own child would have been an abomination in 1950, my ex would have been lynched for daring to impregnate me. My biracial lesbian child would have to stay closeted. I believe that to ignore the nasty parts of our history is to turn a blind eye to the evils that are happening now: stand your ground, stop and frisk, anti-gay bills, the encouragement of rape culture, etc. We need so much now to keep our eyes open and to speak out against injustice even when it doesn't affect us personally. We forget the pain of our neighbors.
    I double applaud you for this, sometimes we need to bend the no politics rules to bring more awareness about issues that involve the greater community, because we need to be personally accountable.
    I thought you seemed like cool people before, knowing where you stand on this and that you are not afraid to stand up and speak out, my respect for you has become even greater. mad love to you chica.

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  17. Thank you for such a well informed and conscious post. I never get involved in the political/social stuff here on the blogosphere (or in person either, I really try to just keep things polite) BUT I really enjoyed your post and wanted to share it with my friends too (link: http://parcequejaidit.blogspot.com/2014/02/well-said.html). VERY well said, and I am so glad that you are not afraid to challenge the misconceptions about dressing vintage and living in the past etc. Thank you.

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  18. Thank you for writing this, dear. I always say that I love "the style of the fifties", not that I live in the wrong era or that I love the fifties. So many ugly things were going on back then, which I will never support. and btw gay marriages have been legal for many years in Denmark, in fact I think we were the first country to allow them. Simple human rights, that's what it is. And also thank you for all the photos. I love the first mother and child photo.

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    1. Its funny how we Americans seem to think that our country is so progressive yet when we have a problem everyone says "well you know, Europe does this awesome thing, why don't we just do that?!" Rock on, Denmark!! :)

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  19. Oh, my gosh. That, wow, well, I don't really know what to say. How on earth could a bill that is so ripe for abuse have been passed?!?! What a sad, sad day. :-( Thank you for posting about it - these sorts of things need to be called out and talked about! *hugs*

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  20. excellent post, I am always upset when people over glamourize the past. I love the style of the 1930s but I hardly want to revisit that era, it was the great depression for goodness sake! That bill needs to be stopped and its an outrage that it has even been introduced

    retro rover

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  21. I heard the other day that some studies were showing that levels of violence in developed societies had dropped sharply over the past 50 or so years. This is clearly the result of education and communications system, increased wealth and anti-discrimination laws which have come into being over the past five or six decades. The designs and the very beautiful music and fun things from the 40s 50s and 60s are not the only things to treasure and keep safe, we need to remember the very real struggles that went on to improve things and keep fighting for them or else it will all be for nothing.

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  22. Thank you for this post. I love that it is well written, clear, and full of passion.

    I've thought of this type of post for some time, but every time I attempted it, it never came out right, but yours so incredibly well written, and beautiful.

    xoxo
    -Janey

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  23. I did not agree with everything you wrote but, hey, the world doesn't revolve around me. ;) One reason is that I think that there were some things about the 40s and 50s (besides fashion) that were so much better than today. Like how teenagers were respectful to their elders and how people had better manners (think holding open the door and pulling out your seat). Also, teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, and drugs existed, but almost never happened. Not like today anyways. Not that I particularly think that everything was better back then, it's just that there is no reason to be angry with people who want to live in that era because there was definitely more to it than just the lovely fashions. I want to say one more thing though; that first picture is absolutely beautiful, it's so sad that it is ruined by the garish and unfair sign on the top. :( Love ya dearie! Love your blog too. ;)

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    1. I'm not at all angry with anyone for saying those things. I simply think it's foolish. I"m angry at the discrimination. As far as teen pregnancy, manners, drinking and drugs- they TOTALLY happened just as much back then as they do now. What were those teenage kids doing in back seats of cars at drive-ins? My grandma (commenter below) was a young girl in this time and she has plenty of great stories to tell that would shock those that think the 50s was such a sweet time. Girls got knocked up all the time. They went to live with an aunt somewhere, had the baby and came back after a wonderful "vacation" and no one was the wiser. They drank, got high and listened to rock and roll no matter what their parents thought. They just didnt have crappy MTV shows talking about it, they tried to keep it under wraps. I'll have to interview her some weekend and share her stories of wild young kids back then! :)

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    2. I had to know statistics on this out of curiosity and check out this craziness from gutmacher.org "The rate of teen childbearing in the United States has fallen steeply since the late 1950s, from an all time high of 96 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 1957 to an all time low of 49 in 2000 " so wow, that's -way- more than I thought!

      and this is a very interesting article on drug abuse in the 50s, especially pertaining to LSD, heroin and marijuana use.: http://blog.palmpartners.com/tag/1950s-drug-abuse/

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    3. Thanks for the comment back, and for doing your research. :) I just believe that there was more to the 50s then just the fashions. I'll admit though, my personal experiences with that time period (my grandparents) were very lucky. They were the dashing, all-American coca cola couple living in a little suburb in MI where segregation was at it's least severe. They were genuinely in love and although many couples weren't as lucky as them, I can look back at it and say that they got it right and I hope that my life will be just like theirs. :) So my glasses will always be a little rosy. Please go through with the interview with your grandmother. Have her tell the most shocking. :D Thanks!

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    4. Oh, one more thing. I had read somewhere that the reason that teenage pregnancies have dropped is because not only have contraceptives been perfected and used more often, but also that teenage marriages were not that uncommon. Also, the teenage boys were much more likely to marry the girl than today. Not debating (promise) just adding some things to think about. But I totally know what you mean. My grandparents on the other side got married just three weeks before my mother arrived back in '61.

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    5. I laughed out loud at "teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, and drugs existed, but almost never happened". Oh, you sweet summer child.

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    6. If you want to know more about the stories of women who were forced to go away by their families and give their children up for adoption, you should read the book The Girls Who Went Away. It is full of interviews by women who went through this time period and their experiences. Please be prepared to cry a lot. I read this book a few years ago and it really moved me. I hope anyone interested in the time period and learning more about how teenage pregnancy was dealt with should read this book.

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    7. That sounds really interesting. I mentioned above that my grandmother got married a few weeks before giving birth back in '61. It was a shotgun wedding; she still to this day doesn't associate with hardly anyone she knew during that time. I will definitely have to look into that book. The TV series Call the Midwife deals with it a little.

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  24. I am so very proud of you Brittany, and your Great-Grandparents would also be proud of you. You are right the fashion and music, of the 30s, 40s and 50s were great but there was much that needed changing. That is what the young people of the 60s tried to change. It wasn't always easy to change things, people died for freedom, and there is still much work to do. You can dress up bills like this all you want but I don't think anyone is fooled, this is not about business owner rights, or their religious freedom. There is nothing gray about it, this bill and any ones like are completely about discrimination. This was taken care of once, but again, you are right, please, everyone keep watch and stay vocal so this terrible part of the past does not raise its ugly head again.

    Thank you for being my Granddaughter,

    Grandma, oxoxox

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    1. Thanks grandma! All I know about these times, I learned from yours and great grandma's stories!!

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  25. Thank you! I got into a disagreement last night on Facebook with a family member who said comparing the issue in AZ with the discrimination of African Americans as racist!!! And the people being discriminated against are Christians. I am so happy to know other people feel the same way I do about these hideous laws they are trying to pass.

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  26. Great post!! I completely understand trying to avoid talking politics or religion (I avoid it on my blog too), but I'm so glad you broke your rule for this post. Sometimes things really need to be talked about and discussed, or else society risks becoming too complacent about really important issues.

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  27. This is a really important thing to talk about! I'd also just like to say I'm impressed you know about the Japanese internment camps in America - some people are so obsessed with their image of America as the heroes of WWII that they are wilfully ignorant about things like that.

    The other week, I was dressed up for a 50s party I was going to with my family. My sister turned to me and said "man, you were born in the wrong era". She paused, then corrected herself, "actually, no. I don't think they would have liked you much back then!"

    On the topic of teenage pregnancies and coverups, there's a series starting here in Australia about how teenage mothers were forced to give up their children in the 60s. I'll be doing a blog post about it soon!

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    1. oh yes, we learned all about the internments back in high school. Someone said that we had an internment camp here in my home state but I haven't been able to find any information to support that claim- although it wouldn't surprise me at all. I agree, I don't think people would have liked me much back then either. I would have been quite a hell-raiser! Please share your link about that series when you're done with it!!

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  28. Good for you for breaking that stupid rule! This needs to be said! I for one like a few more opinion based pieces it shows you as a complete person not just someone who can write the fluffy stuff! I say bring on the opinions girl!

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I read every single comment (even on old posts) and they make my day! If you have a question, please email me at brittanyvavoomvintage@gmail.com. Thank you for reading me!